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NNPCL lawyers stage walkout in Ararume case

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There was drama on Monday at a Federal High Court in Abuja in the N100 billion suit by Senator Ifeanyi Ararume against the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), when two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Kayinsola Ajayi, a Professor of Law and Etigwa Uwa, staged a walkout on the court.

The two SANs had appeared before Justice Inyang Ekwo to represent the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited in the suit by Ararume challenging his removal as the chairman of the company.

Ajayi who led a retinue of lawyers on behalf of the NNPCL had sought to move three different applications comprising one asking the court to stay proceedings, pending the appeal against the ruling of the Federal High Court delivered on January 11, 2023.

After identifying the processes filed by the NNPCL against the suit, he argued that the motion seeking stay of proceedings must be heard separately and ruling delivered by the Judge before any other motion should be entertained.

The Judge however informed him to move all the applications together and that he would deliver separate rulings in each of the applications so as to save judicial time of the court.

Although Ararume, represented by Chris Uche (SAN), claimed that the motion for stay of proceeding had not been served on him, Ajayi stood his ground to move the application separately and that the Judge must give separate rulings on it one way or the other before any other issue.

However, following the decision of the Judge to take all the applications together in line with the provision of the Practice Direction of the Federal High Court, Ajayi and Uwa announced their withdrawal from the suit and immediately staged a walkout on the court.

They were joined by their juniors in leaving the court immediately the judge ordered them to move their three applications together.

Later during the proceedings, Ararume’s counsel, Uche, while adopting his final brief of argument, urged the court to invoke the Companies and Allied Matters Act to nullify the removal of his client as chairman of the NNPCL.

Uche informed the court that Buhari acted outside the law to remove Ararume after incorporating the oil company in his name and was billed for inauguration in the capacity.

However, Buhari’s counsel, Abubakar Shuaib, prayed the court to dismiss the suit against his client on the grounds that it was statute barred at the time it was instituted.

Specifically, Shuaib argued that Ararume’s suit offended Section 2(a) of the Public Officers Act and as such was incompetent.

Counsel for the Corporate Affairs Commission, which is the third defendant in the suit, Akeeem Mustapha (SAN), asked the court to decline jurisdiction in entertaining the suit.

According to him, his client did not play any role in Ararume’s disputed removal apart from incorporating the NNPCL as a limited liability company based on the document submitted to it.

Mustapha however said that Ararume’s appointment was political and that Buhari had the power to hire and fire, adding that the appointment had nothing to do with CAMA law.

After taking arguments from Ararume, President Buhari, and Corporate Affairs Commission, Justice Ekwo fixed March 28 for ruling and possible judgment in the suit.

Ararume had dragged Buhari before the court praying it to declare his removal as the NNPC chief illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional and that it was a total breach of CAMA law under which the NNPCL was incorporated.

Apart from asking the court to issue an order to return him to office, Ararume also demanded N100 billion as compensation for the damages he suffered nationally and internationally in the manners his removal was carried out by President Buhari.

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